Publisher: Inkspell Publishing
Publication Date: August 7, 2012
Cressenda knows how to survive. With her sled dogs as her only companions, she’s spent the past ten years hiding in the snow covered wilderness from the oppressive regime of the Affinity. When a routine trip to civilization takes a turn for the worst, Cressenda is forced to take refuge with the enemy or lose her life to the frozen countryside.
But Beckett, a Guard of the Affinity, is more than a man in uniform. His desperate need to help Cressenda escape both- the blizzard and the Affinity- makes her feelings for him all the more troubling. Will Beckett be true to his word and set Cressenda free? Will her heart let her leave after all they’ve shared?
This was a confusing book, starting when I tried to decide which genre to call it. It sounds like a dystopian: society has been oppressed by the government and the non-conformists are Outliers, in hiding and surviving by the skin of their teeth. It also sounds futuristic. There’ve been genetic experiments on crops and animals and technology is way ahead of what we have now. There was even a Reaper mentioned and even though I don’t think it was a paranormal kind of Reaper, it wasn’t explained.
Cressie lives with only her two dogs in the arctic, hiding from the Affinity, the lock-step government program all citizens are required to follow that also forces them to be Matched with whomever they are genetically compatible. As an Outlier, Cressie is in constant fear of being caught not having the proper papers, so she avoids public contact as much as possible, only going to the trade market every other month for necessities. This trip turns into a disaster when an Affiliate Guard figures out who she is; for some reason Cressie can’t trust, he doesn’t turn her in but takes her to his home instead.
I loved the way the book started out. Seriously loved it. There were a couple of brief scenes with Cressie’s parents ten years earlier that gave some background for why she would become an Outlier and it really brought that part of the story together for me. Skip ahead to an awesome, self-sufficient Cressie. She knows being alone sucks, but she’s dealing with it in the best way she knows how, trading love and affection with her sled dogs. The descriptions of their journey to the trading post were gorgeous. I wanted more of the sled traveling through the snow and forest, up the side of the mountain. When Cressie made it to the market, the story started to head downhill and it never really recovered.
The trading market itself was interesting, almost medieval if you didn’t count the Affinity guards wandering around. When Beckett grabs Cressie and finds out she’s an Outlier, I didn’t know how he was supposed to have gotten her away from the other guard unnoticed. He whisked her away to his homey cabin where they’re trapped for a few days during a blizzard. I’m sure I was supposed to think Beckett was very sensitive and sexy but I just couldn’t. His story was just so perfectly sad, his reactions just so perfectly stereotypically manly that it felt a little chilly. I didn’t ever get why he was helping Cressie hide from the Affinity when everything he’d done so far in his life was Affinity. He just felt too smooth. By contrast, the Cressie that I’d loved acted like she was possessed, yelling at him one minute, soothing him with homemade chili the next. My brain was scrambled with these two. All I could think was, please, no sexy stuff, let them just fall in love and leave it there! Alas, my prayers were not answered and confusion followed. A girl who’s been in seclusion since she was sixteen is sexually experienced? Ooookay.
There’s an HEA (as much as there can be in a dystopian) but I was awfully surprised by the specifics of it. It was just more proof that I didn’t know who Beckett was because it really made no sense. At least there was no cliffhanger, even if there’s room for a sequel.
My Summary: It’s entirely possible that if this was a longer book, I would have enjoyed it. More space to learn about Beckett, to figure out how his relationship to Cressie evolved and to have a reason for that ending would have gone a long way towards improving my feelings about the story. Heck, just more about Beckett would have been good. Their romance didn’t seem to fit in this small space for me. In a lot of ways, Cressie felt like the alpha in the relationship and I’m petty enough to say that bothered me.